During the late 1920s early 1930s, companies began using neon gas to bring a little extra attention to their advertising signs. These signs were truly statement pieces of their time and are looked at the same way today. Sign companies around the country were making neon signs for customers for all types of application. From car dealerships to florists and everything in between, neon signs were proudly displayed on the buildings and in the windows.
Neon signs are bright, vivid, and attractive signage fixtures. They were some of the most popular advertising mediums for several decades and are still used by businesses with a vintage aesthetic. These now antique signs were so common that it was rare to see a business without one. They went out of fashion because the signs were difficult to maintain and required special skills to repair. Today, they appeal to collectors and people who admire the 1940s and 50s aesthetic.
History of Neon Signs
Neon signs have a long, rich history that has shaped the urban landscape over the years. These signs were invented by a French engineer named George Claude back in the early 1900s. Claude debuted his innovative technology at the Paris Motor Show in 1910, much to the pleasure and fascination of Parisians. The technology was first used as an advertisement sign in 1912. It was placed outside a Parisian barbershop, and the rest is history.
Neon quickly became popular because it was both affordable and attractive. Sign manufacturers could create a wide range of colors by combining neon gas with other gases and chemicals. They experimented with different glasswork styles to create beautiful signs that brought foot traffic to every business.
These fixtures were popular throughout the early 20th century, reaching their peak in the 1920s and 30s. Almost every major US city had hundreds of these lights scattered around in bars, businesses, as gas station signs, on the sides of pharmacies, all keeping the streets bright at night. From the 1940s to 1960s neon signs gradually started to lose their popularity. People started associating these with shady businesses. Las Vegas was an exception to this rule as neon lights are still a common fixture in Sin City. Eventually, the cost of upkeep and changing trends pushed these fixtures into relative obscurity.
Types of Vintage Neon Signs for Sale
Old neon signs come in different shapes, sizes, and designs. Collectors choose signs that appeal to their aesthetic and the theme of their collection. Here’s a look at some of the common sign designs people prefer:
- Bar Signs – Neon bar signs are especially appealing because they capture the illicit nature of the signs that came with their decline in popularity. Many seedy bars and pups had great vintage neon signs.
- Beer Signs – Signs of beer brands like Budweiser and Red Dog are popular with the collectors. They can be a great addition to any collection and also add to the décor of a room.
- Business Signs – As mentioned before, almost every business had a neon sign during the early 1900s. Hotels, restaurants, bakeries, salons, and pharmacies often placed these signs right outside their store.
Choosing the Right Vintage Neon Sign
Signs of popular brands like McDonald's and KFC are also popular with collectors, though many people prefer something more obscure. Most vintage neon signs available today are from the 1950s and 60s. They have a distinctive roadhouse aesthetic that many collectors find appealing.
Signs from the 1920s and 30s are rare and more valuable. They have an art deco look and have more subdued designs. The ones from the 40s strike a great balance between these two styles and have a distinctive diner-style look.